Deputy FM Danny Ayalon at Jewish refugee event 370.
(photo credit: Sasson Tiram / GPO)
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on Monday called for the recognition of the
rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries for the purpose of justice and to
counter the “Arab narrative” of the Israeli- Arab conflict.
speaking in Jerusalem at the “Justice for Jewish refugees from Arab countries”
symposium, put on jointly by the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry for Senior
Citizens and the World Jewish Congress (WJC) as part of a broad diplomatic
campaign to bring the issue to international attention.
In a video
message to the conference, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said his government
was “fully committed to ensuring Jewish refugees are not
According to Foreign Ministry figures, approximately 850,000
Jews from Arab states across the Middle East fled their native countries
following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 due to state-sponsored
persecution. Most were forced to abandon their property and
A declaration by the two ministries and the WJC was released
at the conclusion of the symposium, calling on the UN to place the issue of
Jewish refugees on the agenda of the United Nations and its affiliated
“We will not be silent and we will not give up until Jewish
refugees from Arab countries receive international recognition from the
international community and the Arab League,” Ayalon said.
As part of the
campaign to put the issue on the international agenda, the Foreign Ministry has
instructed Israeli embassies around the world, including at the UN in Geneva and
New York, to raise the matter in all official government meetings and with
“Jewish refugees from Arab lands deserve to have their
story told, their history known, their rights recognized and the justice of
their cause accepted,” Ayalon continued, “not just for the sake of memory, but
to stand in opposition to the Arab narrative, which has been allowed to stand
uncontested for too long.” The deputy foreign minister added that “the extreme
and babbling responses” of Palestinian officials on the matter shows “they have
no answer to this issue except to say that it simply doesn’t exist,” but that
the facts “belie the Palestinian attempts at historic
Earlier this month, Hanan Ashrawi, a prominent member of
the PLO Executive Committee and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council,
rejected the assertion that Jews left Arab countries because of
“[The] claim that Jews who migrated to Israel, which is
supposed to be their homeland, are ‘refugees’ who were uprooted from their
homelands... is a form of deception and delusion.... If Israel is their
homeland, then they are not ‘refugees’; they are emigrants who returned either
voluntarily or due to a political decision.”
Ashrawi added that Jews from
Arab countries left “in accordance with a forethought plan by the Jewish Agency
to bring Jews from all around the world to build the State of
Also present at the symposium was US Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY),
who proposed and helped pass legislation in the House of Representatives in 2008
recognizing as refugees Jews who fled Arab countries.
Nadler said it is
wrong to recognize and deal with the rights and plight of Palestinian refugees,
and not Jewish refugees.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
, Canadian MP and
former minister of justice Irwin Cotler insisted that Israel-Palestinian
negotiations were the correct forum within which to discuss the issue of Jewish
refugees from Arab countries.
“It was both the Palestinian leadership as
well as the broader Arab leadership which rejected having a Jewish state
alongside a separate Palestinian state, that launched a war against the nascent
State of Israel, and this ‘double rejectionism’ of the Palestinian and Arab
leadership persists today,” Cotler said.
He added that this “double
rejectionism” had to be seen in the context of a “double aggression” in which
Arab leaders attacked the State of Israel but also “turned on their own Jewish
nationals living in Arab countries,” and that today’s Arab leadership must
acknowledge its role in the “double rejectionism” and “double aggression,” and
that the Palestinian leadership “cannot connive in that rejectionism and
Cotler also said that the wording of UN Security Council
Resolution 242, that “a just settlement of the refugee problem” be found, was
designed specifically to refer to both Jewish and Arab refugees, and that the
resolution was accepted by the Palestinians as the basis for negotiations.